Paying It Forward Reply

Australian, Joy Hughes, thought she was coming to Honiara for a holiday but has instead found herself playing a part in some of the valuable volunteer projects in Solomon Islands. So inspired by what she has seen, Joy is now organising for a shipping container of donations to assist in the great work being done. Joy has written the personal reflection below of her time here so far and provided some information on the projects that she has taken on with gusto. For those expats who have been in Honiara for a while, it is always great to see our adopted home through fresh eyes with fresh enthusiasm, passion and action!

Take any day in your life that you wish you had a helping hand. A day you may have forgotten your wallet, when you needed to pay for your bus ticket. A day your car broke down when you had to go to an interview. What if a stranger gave you that helping hand? No questions asked and in return, didn’t ask for money or a favour. Just that you help another when the chance came to you. Would you? This premise from the movie ‘Pay It Forward’ where a young boy attempts to make the world a better place after his teacher gives him that chance, is playing out on the Gold Coast. I recently sold my family’s Gold Coast based company to Hills Ltd and am now working on paying it forward.

I travelled to the Solomon Islands for a holiday. However, on the second day in Honiara a chance meeting with another Australian saw me spending my holiday helping victims of the recent floods and teaching at the Mercy School which was built on a rubbish dump on the outskirts of Honiara. This is only one of many schools in the Solomon Islands in dire need of educational materials.

I also learned that women were making their way from local villages to give birth in Honiara. Thousands of these people lost everything in the floods, including essentials for their newborn babies. In fact babies were being sent home naked due to the lack of the basic baby items we often take for granted. They lost everything in the floods and there is little money here to purchase even the basic necessities even underwear!

Instead of sitting by the pool sipping cocktails as planned, I managed to get a ride down a very rough bush track to Mercy School and taught 2 mornings in between chasing around for baby clothes. This is not for the faint hearted (32 degrees + humidity with no air con, in fact no power!). The children and teachers were so excited and grateful I nearly cried. I asked is there anything I can bring back when I return in a few weeks. Even though they have next to nothing they asked for simple things that they are short of – pens, pencils, crayons, erasers, sharpeners, books, educational aides. I also found some second hand baby clothes at a shop in Honiara which were very cheap (for Australians), and washed them in my hotel room. A lady in town takes these to the hospital and distributes ‘baby bags’ to those with nothing.

I am overwhelmed by what I have heard and I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I am now on a mission. Needless to say I will be trying to gather as much educational material and baby clothes as I can to bring back from Australia and have committed to do a one month stint teaching at the school. This week I plan to have a shipping container delivered to the car park at my old workplace at Mermaid Beach. As I did for Sri Lanka when they were hit by the tsunami, I plan to fill the container with donations and ship it to Honiara as soon as possible.

If you are able to assist Joy Hughes in filling the container or are interested in working together, send her an email at joyhughes21@gmail.com or contact her on her Australian mobile 0408 394 609.

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